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A trip into Sheepshead Bay’s past

Brooklyn Daily
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Sheepshead Bay may currently be struggling to keep its streets clean, but back in the day, the area was a swank resort featuring gambling and ritzy hotels, according to Brooklyn’s official historian.

About 75 locals showed up at Royal Bay Restaurant on Sheepshead Bay Road for a lecture by Brooklyn Borough Historian Ron Schweiger on Aug. 13 about the prestigious past of Sheepshead Bay, Brighton Beach, and Manhattan Beach.

Schweiger said the area was once known for its casino and racetrack — and the Brighton Beach boardwalk that is so beloved now was just a narrow plank until the 1920s. The beach looked rather different, as well, due to the very strict dress code.

“Women had to wear leggings — men had to wear shirts, like tank tops,” said Schweiger, who has been doing history programs for more than 30 years. “Otherwise they’d be arrested — really.”

Schweiger brought out old photographs of the area, and said the audience couldn’t believe how different their hometown used to look.

“I showed them all these pictures to show them what is was like where they live now,” said Schweiger. “The audience went, ‘Oh my goodness.’ ”

And Schweiger couldn’t talk about the tourist hotspots without mentioning the man who made Coney Island meaty — Charles Feltman, who decided the frankfurter should be eaten with a bun.

“People complained it was too hot — they couldn’t pick it up,” said Schweiger. “So he added the bun.”

The historian also said the seemingly innocuous term “hot dog” came later, after a graphic 1907 photograph of a dog in distress spurred a rumor that a frankfurter was really mutt meat.

“That’s where the term hot dog comes from, that nasty rumor, he said.”

Schweiger, who also gives walking tours around Brooklyn, said he enjoys seeing how astonished locals are when they learn about their neighborhood’s past.

“They don’t really know the history behind where it is,” said Schweiger.

Reach reporter Vanessa Ogle at or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow her
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Reader Feedback

LM from Sheepshead Bay says:
I was at this. It was a great talk. I'm not sure why there's no mention of Assemblyman Cymbrowitz since he sponsored the talk but I signed up for their list and I look forward to more of these.
Aug. 18, 2014, 10:58 pm
Guest from Brighton says:
He sponsored talk we sponsored his trips, hotels, bars and gifts
Aug. 19, 2014, 11:13 am
Bay Improvemeng Group from Sheepshead Bay says:
Ron Schweiger is an advisor for the Bay Improvement Group and honors our community by giving a history talk about a topic of interest to the area every year the Monday night prior to BayFest (held the 3rd Sunday of every May since 1992, speaking of history). Ron should be declared a national treasure for his dedication to sharing his knowledge of our borough's history, which too many know nothing about or are quick to forget!
Aug. 19, 2014, 2:21 pm

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